Wrong turns, wanderings, and reversals are a fact of life when you write like I do, beginning to end, no outline. I love the freedom this kind of writing gives me, and I've talked about how I feel it enhances my own creativity, but there is a price.
I've been creeping through chapter 4 [ok, I've already lopped off a two-page "prelude" that I was never sure of and made my five-page first chapter into the prelude, so this is really the chapter 5 I was worrying with last week.] I've got my three agentes confide into the palace where the nefarious assault took place...and I got Portier into the hoosegow for one night. I met Maura - did I mention I had plans for her? Not just because she hates lies and she is a cool lady and I enjoyed inventing her, but because I woke up two days ago realizing that she and an unnamed character in my proposal were one and the same. Not only do I have plans for her, but I even know what those plans are! [I LOVE it when that happens.] But then I got stuck.
What do you do when you have writers' block? This is one of the most common questions any writer is asked. And the answer is...
A working writer can't afford to be "blocked." You have to keep plugging, keep looking for something to move you forward.
I picked at the stack of books beside my writing chair and read one called "How Did They Do That" or something like, and it was a great overview of significant developments in various topic areas: Law, Medicine, Food, Science, Architecture, etc. Sort of like the science or food timelines you can find on the internet, only less comprehensive, but including cool pictures and diagrams. I found several VERY useful tidbits.
I read an internet piece about bloodletting [actually a Strange Horizons article called Misconceptions About Medieval Medicine]. Very interesting.
I dragged some descriptive phrases about the palace out of my head [this was truly like pulling a toothpick out of a tarpit]. Which led me into inventing a piece of history - this kingdom had long ago been ruled by the Fassid, a very sophisticated, dark-skinned race - think the Moors in Spain. Sabria's art and architecture reflects the confluence of several great civilizations. Fassid influence is especially pervasive in southern Sabria, and this tells me some things about family customs, too. The Fassid withdrew...disappeared...I have yet to figure out whether this is relevant to current Sabrian history, but it gives me some grounding when I'm writing description: is this a Fassid edifice? was it built to imitate Fassid art? was it built to "put down" Fassid art?
I invented a bit more magic - but it wasn't sufficiently "new" to make me feel accomplished.
At last yesterday, I squeezed out enough words so that Maura got Portier out of his overnight confinement and took him to where he was planning to go...and I realized that it was totally the wrong thing. His "plan" - the investigation I had sketched out in my book proposal, Would Not Work! That's why I was having such a difficult time moving forward. The place I was going to put him would not give him sufficient "cover" for making the inquiries he needed to make.
Once I saw this, I also saw where he needed to be. This is one I have to rework before I can move forward. So I backtrack. Remove a few incidental paragraphs that I can easily use later. Reword a few things. And the incident I wrote yesterday will still work, but Portier will now end up in a place he did NOT plan to be, rather than ending up in the place he planned to be all along. Which circumstance promises the most interest? And the payoff line I wrote in triumph last night still works!
* mule, in this case, is not a sterile donkey offspring, but a person who has been repeatedly bled, his or her blood used for... No, No. That would be telling...